Monday, June 14, 2010

GOP seeks migrant crackdown

By Gary Scharrer - Express-News
Web Posted: 06/13/2010 12:00 CDT


DALLAS — Texas Republicans on Saturday adopted another get-tough policy on immigration and bilingual education that some say will make it hard for the party to attract votes from the state's ever-growing Hispanic population.

The platform encourages state lawmakers to create a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense “for an illegal alien to intentionally or knowingly be within the State of Texas.”

It opposes amnesty “in any form leading to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

The platform also emphasizes border security, encouraging “all means” to “immediately prevent illegal aliens.” Texas Republicans also want to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a U.S. citizen, “with no exceptions.” And the platform calls for an end to day-labor work centers.

The party's education platform calls for the end of federal government-sponsored pre-school and opposes mandatory pre-school and kindergarten.

Bilingual education should end after the third year, according to the platform, and noncitizens should not be eligible for state or federal college financial assistance.

Weston Martinez, a San Antonio delegate to this weekend's state GOP convention, said the immigration and bilingual education stances are based on just two of scores of party principles.

“We believe in limited government. We believe in enforcing laws that are in place,” said Martinez, who was elected to the State Republican Executive Committee.

While acknowledging some concern about his party's future considering the state's shifting demographics, he said the solution is fairly simple.

“We have to be willing to talk to people, be willing to reach out to people and let people know the Republican Party is safe,” he said.

Minority children already make up 66 percent of the state's public school enrollment of 4.8 million, and Hispanics could surpass Anglos in the state's overall population by 2015, demographers agree.

By one estimate, Hispanics will make up 78 percent of the state's population growth over the next 30 years compared with only 4 percent for Anglos.

Not one of the state's 181 legislators is a Hispanic Republican.

“The figures are irrefutable. I am extremely concerned,” longtime Republican advertising executive Lionel Sosa said of his party's future.

GOP primary voters booted out the only statewide Republican Hispanic elected official this spring when they rejected Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo.

The party simply must do a better job of drawing Hispanics, or what is now “a serious problem” could turn fatal, Sosa said.

Within a dozen years Hispanic voters could be electing Democrats “because Democrats have the right message and Republicans have the wrong message,” he said.

“We'll never elect a Republican president again” if that happens, he said, but he predicted the GOP will change because “survival drives the culture” and the party's candidates will come to realize that “they won't have to make a false choice between security and humanity.”

It's imperative for Republicans to reach out to Hispanic voters, said GOP campaign consultant and pollster Whit Ayres, president of the American Association of Political Consultants.

“If Republicans don't do better among Hispanic voters, we are not going to be talking about how we get Florida back in a presidential election, we're going to be talking about how we keep from losing Texas,” said Ayres, of Alexandria, Va.

He also noted a party that loses the four mega-states — Californian, New York, Texas and Florida — must collect 69 percent of the remaining Electoral College votes to win the presidency.

Republicans lost all but Texas in the 2008 presidential election.

“Your party platform is your brand. It represents your values and beliefs and what distinguishes you from Democrats,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairman of the 44-member Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “Republicans who don't agree should speak out and take a stand for the sake of humanity.”

Houston GOP delegate Stuart Mayper said he's concerned about the party's relationship with Hispanic voters.

“We must reach out to these people,” he said. “If we don't, it's a big mistake.”

But the party shouldn't water down its principles.

“Learn English in this country. I don't like going into Wal-Mart and seeing Spanish,” Mayper said.

And he wants to see troops on the border.

“Close the border,” Mayper said. “I am not against any Mexicans or anything. Let's slow down the tide. I'm not saying send anybody back.”

Dolores Fieden, another Houston GOP delegate, is a Hispanic who emphasized the importance of legal migration.

Seeing her party attract more Hispanics “would be nice,” she said. “But if it doesn't happen, it's not because it's not open to them. It's open to whomever.”

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